The Empty Tomb -- Luke 24:1-12
“Now upon the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they came unto the sepulchre, bringing the spices which they had prepared, and certain others with them. And they found the stone rolled away from the sepulchre. And they entered in, and found not the body of the Lord Jesus. And it came to pass, as they were much perplexed thereabout, behold, two men stood by them in shining garments: and as they were afraid, and bowed down their faces to the earth, they said unto them, Why seek ye the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen: remember how He spake unto you when He was yet in Galilee, saying, The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again. And they remembered His words, and returned from the sepulchre, and told all these things unto the eleven, and to all the rest. It was Mary Magdalene, and Joanna, and Mary the mother of James, and other women that were with them, which told these things unto the apostles. And their words seemed to them as idle tales, and they believed them not. Then arose Peter, and ran unto the sepulchre; and stooping down, he beheld the linen clothes laid by themselves, and departed, wondering in himself at that which was come to pass”- Luke 24:1-12.
Unbelieving scholars, who scoff at the story of the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, have often tried to make it appear that the followers of the Lord were expecting Him to rise from the dead; that every shadow seen on the side of Calvary was taken to be the risen Saviour; and that His followers were in an exalted, emotional state of mind and imagined they actually saw Him; but that in reality His body never left the tomb. These critics further claim that when the followers of Christ went into the sepulchre and found it empty it was because, in their excitement, they entered the wrong tomb. Matthew Arnold has written, “The body of Jesus still sleeps in a Syrian tomb.” Well, if the body of Jesus still sleeps in a Syrian tomb, then you and I are without hope so far as salvation is concerned, because, “If Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain” (1 Corinthians 15:14). We are not saved by the teaching of Jesus, wonderful as that was: “Never man spake like this Man.” His teaching could not atone for sin; His teaching could not cleanse guilty souls; it could not make men and women fit for heaven. Neither are we saved by imitating the lovely life of Jesus. If our salvation depended upon our imitating that perfect life, we might everyone of us give up all hope and consider that we are just as good as eternally lost; because it is absolutely impossible for any sinful man to live a life such as Jesus, the holy Son of God, lived. It is true that after we are converted, after we have received a new nature through faith in Him, we are called upon to follow in His steps; but even then as we seek to imitate Him we realize day by day how much we fail. It is not the teaching of Jesus that saves us; it is not by imitation of His life that we are saved: we are saved by His death and resurrection! He “was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification” (Romans 4:25). The Scriptures are clear and definite in regard to the great reality of His triumph over death. One witness after another is brought before us to testify to the fact that Joseph’s new tomb was empty after the three days following the crucifixion. Angels appeared to say He was risen; He Himself appeared on one occasion after another during forty days ere He ascended into heaven in the sight,of His apostles. Horace Bushnell has well said that the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ is the best attested fact of ancient history. If you are familiar with history I should like to put a question to you. Take any outstanding character or event in ancient history -by ancient history I mean that which has to do with persons who lived or events which took place before the Christian era-and try to think on the testimony of how many witnesses you accept the story which you have received concerning these persons or events. There was a man by the name of Socrates. How do you know he lived? Well, you have the testimony of Plato and Xenophon. Beyond that you do not have the testimony of any other eye- or ear-witness. Others referred to him in later days on the authority of these witnesses. God has given us abundant testimony of the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. In order to get the full force of it we need to read what is recorded in all the four Gospels. In addition to that, we have the definite witness of the apostle Paul, and the testimony of the apostles James and Jude, who were related to Christ after the flesh, but who write of Him as the risen One who is now Lord of all. God saw to it that there was all-sufficient evidence of the resurrection that no honest soul need doubt.
“Now upon the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they came unto the sepulchre.” The pronoun they refers to the women spoken of in Luke 23:55 of the preceding chapter: that is, the women from Galilee. Actually, there were two groups of women, but Luke was not led to speak of two separate visits; so he simply says, “They came early in the morning.” The other Gospels give certain particulars concerning their coming, all in full accord with what we have here: “They came early in the morning on the first day of the week.” The first day of the week stands out from all .other days, and will stand out until the time when our Lord Himself shall appear again. In Ps. 118, after saying, “The Stone which the builders refused is become the head stone of the corner” (Psalms 118:22), the Psalmist cries out, “This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it” (Psalms 118:24). This was the day of the Lord’s triumph over death. The last Jewish sabbath that God ever recognized had ended. While the Jews were observing the day according to their law, the body of the Lord Jesus Christ lay cold in death in Joseph’s tomb. They had refused and rejected Him. The sabbath speaks of rest, and the Lord said, “Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). The One who came to bring in the true sabbath of God had been rejected. But on “the morrow after the sabbath,” as written in Leviticus, chap. 23, when the firstfruits were to be presented to God on the first day of the week, Jesus came forth-the first-fruits of the resurrection; and thus redemption was proved to be an accomplished fact.
Moved by their love for the One who had died, the women were bringing spices which they had prepared in order to properly embalm the body. They had no thought that Jesus had risen from the dead. It is absolutely absurd to contend that the followers of Christ expected Him to rise again; that it was easy for them to think they saw Him; that He had told them He would rise again, and so they were expecting Him. They expected nothing of the kind. All they knew was that He had died, and with Him died also their hopes of deliverance, for they had trusted He was the One who would free them from the Roman yoke. They brought the spices to perform the last acts of love, to show their respect for and interest in the One who had been with them for so long, but who was now taken away. We read in Mark’s Gospel that when the women came to the tomb “they said among themselves, Who shall roll us away the stone from the door of the sepulchre?” It was really like a vast millstone. And when they looked they saw that it was already rolled back. At first they were afraid to enter; and upon doing so they were astonished to find that the body was gone. They never dreamed for a moment that He was risen, but thought that someone had broken the Roman seal and stolen the body. As they stood there wondering about it, “two men stood by them in shining garments.” One of the angels asked, “Why seek ye the living among the dead?” That gave them the first intimation that the Lord had actually risen. “He is not here, but is risen: remember how He spake unto you when He was yet in Galilee, saying, The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.” Many times He had told them of His approaching death and resurrection, but they had not understood what His rising from the dead could mean. The angels said, “Remember!” And all that Jesus had said came back to the minds. They remembered His words; and they returned from the sepulchre to carry the word of His resurrection to the disciples. On the way something happened that is not recorded here. Jesus personally appeared to Mary Magdalene, and later to all the women, but Luke does not stop to tell us this. Writing by inspiration of the Holy Spirit, he was so eager to tell how the news was carried to the disciples and how they came out to see for themselves, that he omits some of these beautiful and lovely details given in the other Gospels.
They “returned from the sepulchre, and told all these things unto the eleven, and to all the rest.” There is something so pathetic about this expression: “Told all these things unto the eleven.” Only a few days before there had been twelve, but now there are only eleven. One who had been with Jesus for three-and-one-half wonderful years, who had seen His works of power, beheld His wondrous deeds, and knew the perfection of His Person, had turned away and gone into eternal infamy as Judas the traitor. Oh, how we need to remind ourselves of that scripture which says, “Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall” (1 Corinthians 10:12). Many have companied with God’s people down through the years, going in and out among them and apparently giving every evidence of being real disciples of His, and yet have never definitely known the Lord, but at last have apostatized from the truth. They, like Judas, will go out into eternal darkness. These words speak to my heart every time I read them; God grant they may speak to yours.
Luke gives us the names of Mary Magdalene, out of whom Jesus had cast seven demons; Joanna, a wealthy woman who ministered to Jesus with her substance; Mary, the mother of James and Joses, intimately related to the Lord Himself, “and other women that were with them, which told these things unto the apostles.” At first the disciples refused to believe the women, for “their words seemed to them as idle tales.” Not one of the apostles expected Jesus to come back from the dead; not one had understood when He told them that He would rise again; therefore, when the women came with such a wonderful tale they listened in amazement, doubtless shaking their heads and saying, “These women are terribly excited, but we cannot credit their story: it is incredible that one should arise from the dead.” Finally Peter was stirred-Peter, the one who had said, “Although all shall be offended, yet will not I” and within another hour had failed his Lord! But Peter loved Jesus devotedly. He determined to go and see for himself, and away he went. John tells us in his Gospel that he followed also and reached the tomb before Peter, but he did not go in. Peter stooped down-he had to stoop because the door of the sepulchre would be very low-and he entered in and saw the empty crypt, and the linen clothes lying by themselves in exactly the same form as they had been when wrapped around the body of Jesus. It was the custom of the Jews to wrap the body in long linen bands, beginning with the extremities and coming up to the torso, binding the lower limbs together, and the arms to the side, and putting a turban on the head. When the body was wrapped in these linen clothes it would be impossible for a person to free himself without disturbing them; as in the case of Lazarus when the Lord cried, “Lazarus, come forth.” He came forth bound hand and foot, and Jesus said, “Loose him, and let him go.” As Peter looked at those linen clothes he must have known that only the power of God could ever have taken the body out of them. He “departed, wondering in himself (he was amazed) at that which was come to pass.”
Yes, Jesus lives! He has been raised from the dead; and because He lives, we shall live also. This is the rock foundation of our faith.
The Mysterious Stranger -- Luke 24:13-35
“And, behold, two of them went that same day to a village called Emmaus, which was from Jerusalem about threescore furlongs. And they talked together of all these things which had happened. And it came to pass, that, while they communed together and reasoned, Jesus Himself drew near, and went with them. But their eyes were holden that they should not know Him. And He said unto them, What manner of communications are these that ye have one to another, as ye walk, and are sad? And the one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answering said unto Him, Art thou only a stranger in Jerusalem, and hast not known the things which are come to pass there in these days? And He said unto them, What things? And they said unto Him, Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, which was a Prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people: and how the chief priests and our rulers delivered Him to be condemned to death, and have crucified Him. But we trusted that it had been He which should have redeemed Israel: and beside all this, today is the third day since these things were done. Yea, and certain women also of our company made us astonished, which were early at the sepulchre; and when they found not His body, they came, saying, that they had also seen a vision of angels, which said that He was alive. And certain of them which were with us went to the sepulchre, and found it even so as the women had said: but Him they saw not. Then He said unto them, O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken: ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into His glory? And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, He expounded unto them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself. And they drew nigh unto the village, whither they went: and He made as though He would have gone further. But they constrained Him, saying, Abide with us: for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent. And He went in to tarry with them. And it came to pass, as He sat at meat with them, He took bread, and blessed it, and brake, and gave to them. And their eyes were opened, and they knew Him; and He vanished out of their sight. And they said one to another, Did not our heart burn within us while He talked with us by the way, and while He opened to us the Scriptures? And they rose up the same hour, and returned to Jerusalem, and found the eleven gathered together, and them that were with them, saying, The Lord is risen indeed, and hath appeared to Simon. And they told what things were done in the way, and how He was known of them in breaking of bread”- Luke 24:13-35.
We turn now to Luke’s account of the appearance of Christ following- the resurrection. There is a delightful simplicity and straightforwardness about the various narratives of these great events as given in the four Gospels, which forbids all thought of untruthfulness or of an insane obsession. The writers knew whereof they spoke. They were assured, beyond any doubt, that Jesus, who had died on a malefactor’s cross and whose body lay entombed for three days, had risen in triumph and appeared to so many different witnesses that they could not question the reality of His resurrection. Luke evidently was not one of those who saw the Lord after He rose from the dead, but he was a scientific man, a physician of inquiring mind, who did not rest satisfied until he had examined all the evidence with meticulous care, as a result of which he was convinced of the truthfulness of the testimony given by those who declared they had seen and talked with the risen Saviour (Luke 1:1-3).
Among the many manifestations of our Lord to His disciples during the forty days between the resurrection and ascension is this incident, which I have always considered to be one of the most tender and interesting of all His appearances. It concerns two disciples, Cleopas and another. I believe this other was his wife. We do not know much about Cleopas; some think he is the same as Cleophas (John 19:25). Cleopas is a Hebrew name, however, and the other is Aramaic; but whether the two are identical we do not know. At any rate, these two disciples had loved Jesus; they believed He was the Messiah; and perhaps they were in that throng that watched Him die. Now, in deep perplexity, they were wondering whether their hope was in vain, and whether He was deceived or a deceiver in presenting Himself as the Messiah of Israel, which they had believed He was. They were walking along the way from Jerusalem to Emmaus. It is not a long distance. I have ridden over the road myself, and as I did so I thought of these two as they sauntered along the way speaking of those things which had happened so recently, and I felt as I know they must have felt when that blessed, wondrous Stranger drew near and interrupted their conversation in such a sweet way. “And it came to pass, that, while they communed together and reasoned, Jesus Himself drew near, and went with them.” There is something very comforting about that: Jesus was there! But they did not know it; they did not realize it, and I think oftentimes the same is true with us. Sometimes we are going through trials, bewilderments, sorrow, disappointments, and we feel so utterly alone, we feel as though no one cares, but if our eyes could only be opened-like the eyes of that servant of Elisha in Dothan, so long ago, when he saw the angels of the Lord encamped around them to protect them from their enemies-we might have a similar experience. The eyes of these two disciples were holden so that they did not know who the Stranger was. They were not expecting Him, and did not recognize Him. That He was marvelously changed there can be no doubt. He was no longer the Man of Sorrows, but the triumphant Christ, every trace of care and grief having vanished from His face. They thought, perhaps, He was a visitor, a mysterious Stranger, walking close to them. Drawing nearer He put the question to them, “What manner of communications are these that ye have one to another?” He knew well, but He would draw them out, have them express themselves in order that He might open to them the truth of the Word of God in regard to the great matters of His death and resurrection. They had overlooked in the Bible the very things they were wondering about. The prophets had testified beforehand of the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow His resurrection. Our Lord would have us bring to Him our griefs and our burdens; He delights to have us come to Him and tell Him everything that is on our hearts, and He is ever ready to comfort, lead, instruct, and help. Cleopas, who took the lead, inquired, “Art Thou only a stranger in Jerusalem, and hast not known the things which are come to pass there in these days?” As this was the season of the Passover and there were many visitors in Jerusalem, they supposed this Stranger might be one of them, and had not heard of what had taken place. It might be that He was not in that throng who gazed upon the three hanging on those crosses at Calvary; perhaps He had never heard of this Jesus, the supposed Messiah, who had performed such wondrous works, and so had never learned of His marvelous deeds and teaching. They supposed Jesus to be just a stranger, and indeed He was a Stranger in this world; yet He was the Central Figure in all that had happened in these days. He again put a question to them, “What things?” They answered, “Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, which was a Prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people: and how the chief priests and our rulers delivered Him to be condemned to death, and have crucified Him. But we trusted that it had been He which should have redeemed Israel: and beside all this, today is the third day since these things were done. Yea, and certain women also of our company made us astonished, which were early at the sepulchre; and when they found not His body, they came, saying, that they had also seen a vision of angels, which said that He was alive.” This news had spread among all who loved the name of Jesus; but they were not sure that what the women said was true. Perhaps they were misled; perhaps some optical illusion had dazzled their eyes, or perhaps they were excited and had been deceived into thinking that they had actually seen Him. “And certain of them which were with us went to the sepulchre, and found it even so as the women had said: but Him they saw not.” “Certain of them” refers to Peter and John. They found the tomb empty, the linen clothes lying as they had been wrapped around the body, but they did not see Jesus; and they were not yet clear as to just what had taken place. Jesus undertook to answer them. “O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken.” The word rendered “fools” is not an opprobrious term. It means “simple ones.” They were like children who failed to understand, and so did not believe the prophetic declarations concerning Christ. In other words, there was nothing in all that they had related which was contrary to what was taught in the Word of God; there was nothing opposed to what was written by the prophets. If these two disciples had weighed carefully everything, and had studied the prophecies that speak of the Redeemer of Israel and of His glorious coming kingdom, they ought to have seen how definitely the Scriptures predicted the rejection of the Saviour, His crucifixion, His death and burial; yes, and His resurrection, for it is written in Isaiah 53:10, “When Thou shalt make His soul an offering for sin, He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days.”
“Ought not Christ to have suffered these things? and to enter into His glory?” The cross must come before the crown. There was no other way by which the divine plan of redemption for the individual soul and for the world at large could be carried out. The Lord proceeded to give them a running exposition of practically the whole Old Testament. How one would have delighted to have been in their company that day and heard the blessed Christ of God unfold the Scriptures, referring to His whole life, His rejection, His death on the cross, and resurrection, and even His ascension to God’s right hand, for in Psalms 110:1 we read, “The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit Thou at My right hand, until I make Thine enemies Thy footstool.” He went through the prophecies of the whole Old Testament, beginning with Moses. Our Lord never cast any doubt on the authorship of the first five books of the Bible. Unbelieving critics today may question it. They go so far as to deny that M,oses wrote those books, but our Lord had no such doubt. He said, “Had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed Me: for he wrote of Me” (John 5:46). He knew that Moses was the writer of the early books. “And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, He expounded unto them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.” What a Bible-reading that was! Their hearts were thrilled as the Lord Jesus showed how He was the theme of all phophecy, and so He gave them the key that opens up the Scriptures as nothing else can. Who has ever been able to expound the Word of God and give such a wondrous unfolding of divine truth as our Lord gave that day! If only we had a record of it, how it would enrich our lives; but He chose that we should not have such a record, in order that we might be stirred up to study the Word for ourselves, and search it daily in dependence upon the Holy Spirit. We are to begin with Moses and go on through all the prophets, and with the light that the New Testament throws on these books, we can see the things which they have to teach us concerning Him, for Christ Himself is the theme of the entire Old Testament as truly as the New.
As our Lord walked on with these two, “they drew nigh unto the village whither they went.” They dwelt at Emmaus, and as they turned to go into their home “He made as though He would have gone further.” The Lord Jesus never presses Himself upon anybody; He always waits for an invitation. He will pass on if we allow Him to do so. If He is not invited to come in we will be left without the spiritual help that we might have experienced. “They constrained Him, saying, Abide with us.” So interested were they in what this heavenly Stranger had unfolded that they urged Him to become their Guest for the night. Thus pressed, He went in to tarry with them. Oh, how He appreciated their invitation! He loves to be welcomed; He never turns away when He is invited. He went in to tarry with them. They soon prepared the evening meal, and this wondrous Stranger was asked to recline at the table with them. It might have been a very simple meal; there might not have been very much variety, but they were prepared to share what they had with Him. He took His place at the table, but not simply as a guest; He took the place of the Host. Instead of waiting for Cleopas or the other disciples to ask the blessing, He took one of the wafers of bread and looked up to heaven and gave thanks. They thought they were inviting Him as their Guest, but they found that they were His guests, and He was the Host. Suddenly, as they looked upon His hands when He was about to break the bread, a revelation came to them. We read, “And their eyes were opened, and they knew Him; and He vanished out of their sight.” How did they know Him? They told the disciples afterward in Jerusalem, “He was known of us in breaking of bread.” These two were not at the Lord’s Supper. At that time there were the eleven, the apostles of the Lord Jesus Christ. These two were but disciples who, otherwise, were unknown. So they did not recognize Him because of something they had seen Him do in the Upper Room. But as they gazed upon those hands, no doubt they saw the print of the nails, as Thomas was shortly afterward to see; and they said, “Oh, this is He! Look at those hands! This is the One who was nailed to that cross.” They recognized Him and they knew Him now to be the Christ, the Redeemer of Israel. But when they looked again, He was gone; He had vanished out of sight. His resurrection body was no longer subject to earthly order. A little later we find Him entering a room with the doors shut. He could manifest Himself and vanish from them at any time. “And they said one to another, Did not our heart burn within us, while He talked with us by the way, and while He opened to us the Scriptures?” They had never heard Scripture unfolded like that. Now as they looked back they felt they might have known who He was who had revealed the truth in such a heart-warming manner. “And they rose up the same hour, and returned to Jerusalem, and found the eleven gathered together, and them that were with them.” They knew just where to find the eleven. As these two disciples came to the door they heard someone say, “The Lord is risen indeed, and hath appeared to Simon.” Simon! the one who had denied Him, taken an oath that he did not even know Jesus; yet somewhere on that resurrection day the Lord had sought him out, and He had revealed Himself to him; and Simon knew that he was forgiven. Peter must have felt, of all the apostles, the most forlorn and wretched, as he recalled in bitterness of spirit his sad failure to stand the test in the hour of trial. What a relief to his heart when Jesus appeared to him alone, to restore his soul and console his spirit! It is but one sample of the grace He ever manifests toward His erring followers. A little later we find the Lord giving Peter the commission, “Feed My lambs… feed My sheep.”
“And they told what things were done in the way, and how He was known of them in breaking of bread.” And so the two disciples added their testimony. What an experience they had and what joy must have been theirs as they knew for certain that He who had died was alive again. And, thank God, He lives to die no more!
At the risk of some repetition let me emphasize the truth that apart from the physical resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Church of God has no foundation upon which to rest, and there would be no basis for the gospel message. Therefore God has emphasized this great truth in a very remarkable way. In the Old Testament it was plainly predicted that the Saviour was to die for our sins and that He would rise from the dead and take His seat on the right hand of God in Heaven. For Him the path of life lay through the regions of death, but His soul was not to be left in Sheol, the unseen world, nor His body see corruption (Psalms 16:9-11). After His soul was made an offering for sin, He was to “see His seed,” and “prolong His days, and the pleasure of the Lord” should prosper in His hand (Isaiah 53:10.) In the prophets we have prediction; in the Gospels, fulfilment. Christ is risen. He has “become the firstfruits of them that slept” (1 Corinthians 15:20). Through His name, the name of the One who was dead and is alive again (Revelation 1:18), mighty signs and wonders have been wrought during all the centuries since He vanquished death and “brought life and immortality to light through the gospel” (2 Timothy 1:10).
Our Lord's Last Instructions And Ascension -- Luke 24:36-53
“And as they thus spake, Jesus Himself stood in the midst of them, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you. But they were terrified and affrighted, and supposed that they had seen a spirit. And He said unto them, Why are ye troubled? and why do thoughts arise in your hearts? Behold My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself: handle Me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see Me have. And when He had thus spoken, He showed them His hands and His feet. And while they yet believed not for joy, and wondered, He said unto them, Have ye here any meat? And they gave Him a piece of a broiled fish, and of an honeycomb. And He took it, and did eat before them. And He said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning Me. Then opened He their understanding, that they might understand the Scriptures, and said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And ye are witnesses of these things. And, behold, I send the promise of My Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high. And He led them out as far as to Bethany, and He lifted up His hands, and blessed them. And it came to pass, while He blessed them, He was parted from them, and carried up into heaven. And they worshipped Him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy: and were continually in the temple, praising and blessing God. Amen”- Luke 24:36-53.
Christ’s commissions to His apostles in regard to carrying His gospel to the world were not given all at one time. In Acts 1:2-3 Luke tells us that during the forty days between His resurrection and ascension the Lord gave commandment regarding their future service, and spoke of many things “pertaining to the kingdom of God.”
The present section is divided into two portions: Luke 24:36-49 give the first appearance of the Lord Jesus Christ in the upper room in Jerusalem, as referred to in John, chap. 20. The last four verses take us to the slopes of Mount Olivet, from which the Lord ascended to heaven.
We read, “As they thus spake.” That is, while the two who came back from Emmaus were telling of their remarkable experience with the risen Lord, Jesus suddenly appeared standing “in the midst,” having entered the room without opening the closed doors. In His resurrection body He was no longer subject to the laws that He submitted to during His humiliation. “And as they thus spake, Jesus Himself stood in the midst of them, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you.” He said, “Peace be unto you,” for He had made peace by the blood of His cross (Colossians 1:20). He had told them long before, “Where two or three are gathered together in My name, there am I in the midst” (Matthew 18:20). This is always true: wherever there are two or three, or a great gathering met in His name, He is in the midst. I think if Christians realized this more fully we would not be found absent so often from meetings for prayer and worship. We would take every opportunity to meet with our blessed Lord. We would go, not just to meet one another, nor merely to hear the preaching of the Word, nor to enjoy the singing of the hymns, but to be in His holy presence and be occupied with Christ Himself. When He hung on the tree there were two thieves crucified with Him, and Jesus was in the midst. There He took the place of the sinner and bore the judgment that we so richly deserved. And when His disciples were gathered together He appeared “in the midst” of them. When the apostle John beheld the heavenly home he tells us, “In the midst of the throne and of the four beasts, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as it had been slain” (Revelation 5:6). His place is always in the midst.
The disciples had heard of the testimony of His resurrection from a number of the others; yet it seemed so utterly impossible that some were filled with terror rather than gladness. They supposed they had seen a spirit, that is, a ghost; they thought a phantom had appeared to them. “They were terrified and affrighted.” They could not credit the testimony of their own senses, so little did they understand about His rising from the dead. They thought they beheld a wraith, and that it boded some evil rather than good. Jesus said, “Why are ye troubled? and why do thoughts arise in your hearts?” He checked their disordered thoughts and rebuked them for their distress, which was caused by unbelief. Had they paid careful attention to His words before His arrest, they would not have been troubled now, but would have rejoiced that they were so gloriously fulfilled. He added, “Behold My hand and My feet, that it is I Myself: handle Me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see Me have.” He bade them grasp His arms firmly to feel for themselves that it was no phantom that had appeared to them, but one in a real body of flesh and bones. He did not say “flesh and blood.” The life of the flesh is in the blood (Leviticus 17:11). The resurrection body is apparently bloodless. But it is a material body nevertheless-of flesh and bone -though of a character different from the present body. Then He showed them His hands and His feet. John mentions His hands and side and omits His feet. He directed attention to His wounds, for He bore in His resurrection body the scars that told of His suffering, and He will bear them forever as the supreme reminder of His love.
Recently I was preaching in an eastern city, and I went down to visit a mission with the brother in charge. He told me, as we stood by the pulpit, of a remarkable experience he had there a short time before. He said he was standing in the pulpit, and as he looked down the aisle the door .opened, and a strange-looking figure entered, clothed in a long white robe. Coming to where my friend stood, the stranger looked up at him and said, “I have come to take possession. I am the Lord Jesus Christ.” My friend looked at him for a moment; at first he thought perhaps the man was a maniac, and he had better leave him, but instead he asked, “You say you are the Lord Jesus Christ?” “Yes,” was the reply, “and I have come back as I promised I would.” “Let me see your hands,” said the mission man. The visitor held out his hands. “Oh, no; you are not my Saviour; my Saviour has the prints of the nails in each hand.” The man looked hard at him and turned and left. Jesus bears the marks of identification in His wounded hands and feet. He said, “Behold My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself: handle Me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and hones, as ye see Me have.” The natural thing to have said is “A spirit hath not flesh and blood.” But our Lord had poured out His precious blood on Calvary to make atonement for us, and His resurrection body had no need of blood to sustain it. “He said unto them, Have ye here any meat? And they gave Him a piece of a broiled fish, and of an honeycomb. And He took it, and did eat before them.” They were still incredulous; so He undertook to eat before them, so that they might know beyond all doubt that He stood there in a true human body. Thus He made it clear that He was actually present with them in His resurrection body, not simply a glorified spirit.
“And He said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning Me.” The risen Lord here authenticates the entire Old Testament by declaring without any equivocation that all things written in the law, the prophets, and the psalms, concerning Him must be fulfilled. This goes on to His second coming and kingdom. Nothing is to be cancelled. All must take place as written. This is our authority for believing in the literal fulfilment of prophecy. It is a great mistake to spiritualize the prophecies and suppose that God is going to go back on His word.
Then the Lord Jesus Christ did something for the disciples that we would have Him do for us, “Then opened He their understanding, that they might understand the Scriptures.” It is only as the Lord, through His Spirit, opens the understanding of men and women that they can comprehend the truth that God has revealed in His Word. In this chapter, Luke 24:31, we read, “And their eyes were opened, and they knew Him.” Here we are told that the Lord opened their understanding; and after He had disappeared from the room, the Emmaus disciples said one to another, “Did not our heart burn within us, while He talked with us by the way, and while He opened to us the Scriptures?” Link these three together: He opened the Scriptures, their eyes, and their understanding. It is only in this way that we can learn the mind of God. It is a great thing to go back to what is written in the Scriptures. We get so occupied with human theories that we fail to depend on what is written in the Word. “And He said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And ye are witnesses of these things.” Jerusalem at that time was the guiltiest city on the face of the earth. Its people had gone so far as to crucify their own blessed, adorable King. One might have wondered if God in His wrath would not wipe that city off the face of the earth; but it was there that He was to begin showing the exceeding riches of His grace. Within a short time three thousand persons were led to accept Christ as Saviour and having accepted Him, were baptized in His Name; that is, by His authority. After beginning in Jerusalem, the apostles were to be witnesses to His resurrection through the entire world. In Acts 1:8 we read, “And ye shall be witnesses unto Me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.”
Notice that in the commission as given here there are two things that God has joined together: personal repentance and remission of sin. What is repentance? It is nothing meritorious; it is the recognition of the disease that is destroying us. When we acknowledge our sinfulness we are glad to avail ourselves of the salvation God has provided. Then one is ready for the message which tells him that Christ has done for him that which he cannot do for himself. When he puts his trust in Christ he receives remission of sins. To believe in Him is to put your trust in Him, and when you do that you receive remission of sins. How do you know when your sins are forgiven? You must take God at His word; believe it because He says so. It is not because of a happy feeling that you know you are forgiven, but because you know that God cannot lie.
Our Lord added, “And, behold, I send the promise of My Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high.” They were not to go at once, however. The promised Comforter must come first, whom the Father was to send in His name (John 14:26). He would empower them to preach so as to carry conviction to the hearts of their hearers. They were to wait in Jerusalem until this promise was fulfilled. After ten days the Spirit of God came upon them in an absolutely new way. This was their power for testimony. The reason why much of our witnessing does not amount to more than it does is that we witness in our own strength and not in the power of the Holy Spirit.
Following these instructions, “He led them out as far as Bethany, and He lifted up His hands, and blessed them.” In order to reach Bethany one must climb up the Mount of Olives, and then go down a little on the eastern side. The Lord Jesus often visited in Bethany at the home,of Mary, Martha, and their brother Lazarus, whom Jesus raised from the dead. On the mountain-side near this town He lifted up His hands and blessed His disciples, and then ascended to heaven, and a cloud received Him and hid Him from their view. His work on earth was finished, and He returned to the Father and to the glory that He had with Him before the world began.
We are told that they “worshipped Him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy.” All questions as to the mystery of His Person were now at an end. They adored Him as the Eternal Son of the Father, and then, in obedience to His word, “returned to Jerusalem with great joy” to await the descent .of the Holy Spirit. “They were continually in the temple, praising and blessing God.” During the tarrying period they seem to have dwelt together in one common home, where they spent time in prayer (Acts 1:13-14), but during the greater part of the days they were found in the temple courts, “praising and blessing God.” It was not, as some have concluded without proper evidence, that a prayer-meeting went on continually for the ten-day period.
The one great fact which is brought before us in this lesson is that we who know Christ as Saviour are responsible to carry the gospel to all the people of the world. It is not for us to enjoy the goodness of the Lord ourselves, while forgetting the need of lost souls all about us, and those in distant lands who are still sitting in darkness and the shadow of death. Nor are we cast upon our own resources in the carrying out of our commission. He who sends also empowers. By the Holy Spirit He fits His servants to go forth, as His anointed heralds, to make known the riches of His grace to men of every nation. Increased blessing comes to the Church at home as her members reach out into the regions beyond. With this Luke closes this account to take it up again in the first chapter of the Book of Acts.
Nothing is more pitiable than to hear Christians arguing about the application of the great commission, while neglecting to obey it. We are responsible to give our generation the opportunity of hearing the gospel. In a future day God will have His witnesses to the nations, but this does not relieve us of present accountability to make known the grace of God everywhere, so far as it is in our power. He who knows the blessing of salvation is called to make Christ known to others even though his circle be a very limited one. All are not gifted preachers or evangelists, but all saved ones can tell someone else of the Lord Jesus and the way of life. If we know Christ for ourselves, are we doing all we can to extend this knowledge to those who are still in their sins? Repentance and remission of sins go together, for when one owns his lost condition, he is prepared to trust the only Saviour. Have we done this?
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Ironside, H. A. "Commentary on Luke 24". Ironside's Notes on Selected Books. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Easter